I’ve made some initial inroads on a new book. The purpose of this book shall be to present, if not a “more accessible” version of neoreactionary insights, at the very least an argument structure which appeals to the background of a classical education. It shall delve into the metaphysical underpinnings of describing and producing social order especially, and explore, apart from the egalitarian assumptions of the Enlightenment, the values which a society could potentially, and perhaps should, attempt to maximize.
One of the questions which the book shall attempt to answer is what constitutes the concern of political philosophy. Modern political philosophy, with its emphasis on individual rights and lack of recognition of the primacy of society over the individual, might be considered a failed endeavor to extend the egalitarian assumptions first explicated in Protestantism and undergirding the ideas of “canonical” political philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and so on.
As such, I’ve decided to take a two week break from writing here and also my Twitter in order to incentivize myself to get to writing this book. I intend to give frequent updates to my Patreon donors (and I can promise you’ll be in dignified company) as I produce drafts for the book (hint hint), but I will return here at this domain to elaborate more on my crazy theories about language use and social theory, so have no fear. In the meanwhile, below is a small preview which hopefully illustrates the overall theme of the book.
Political philosophy has an acutely weird fascination with individual rights. It would appear that the idea of “rights” owed to an individual by some society has taken on an increasingly narrow yet overpowering attention in the discourse of politia. Politia is, of course, but the study of order in society. Given there are a wide plurality of rights concepts, indeed a wider plurality of political philosophies which owe no use to rights, the centrality of rights in the cultural milieu, whether that be the popular culture as exemplified by MSNBC and Huffington Post or academia is something which demands an explanation. The individual is not obviously the central focus of political philosophy; if we are concerned with the order of society per se, then the individual plays a subsidiary role to the whole. What, then, to explain the dominant role of the individual in modern political philosophy?
Even developing politia so that the individual takes on a less central role in our culture and institutions is a difficult task as one must first undermine the confidence and fixation on the individual. It tends to be taken for granted that of course political philosophy is about the individual, and of such an insidious form that this presumption is never accurately diagnosed and discussed for its own merit. What if it were the case that politia demands the benefits and comforts of the individual can only be an afterthought, mere luxuries afforded by fortune but certainly never to be expected as the norm? Such a view does seem to reflect the more everyday life philosophies of pre-Industrial societies, in which the norm was toil or die. Our expectation of luxury for the individual, of making society be about “living standards” and “social justice” is entirely contingent on the ability of society to continue producing at an abundance which is an extreme deviation from the historical norm, a deviation which lines of reasoning from Darwin, Malthus, and Galton suggests we shouldn’t expect to stay with us. Is a political philosophy that is blind to the material constraints of scarcity, the difficulty of cultural cohesion and cooperation, and the task of civilization even properly a political philosophy at all?
This is a dangerous question, as it suggests that the overwhelming majority of political philosophy that has been developed in the last century has been a complete waste. I wish I could be more generous, but when peruses the books and papers, the virtual entirety are concerned with what society owes the individual. The question of what the individual owes his society is completely foregone and overlooked. It might appear that the question of what the individual owes his society is discussed, but this only ever in the context of how that individual, as a part of society, owes other particular individuals. There is what men owe to women, what the rich owe to the poor, what whites owe to blacks, but these are always subsidiary questions to what women are owed, what the poor are owed, and what blacks are owed. There is no sense in which what is owed between individuals is treated as equivalent and, in the Aristotelian sense, equitable.
Justice, as Aristotle defines it, is equality. And what is equality? It is not treating individuals, regardless of their characteristics, whether innate or cultural, the same. Great ideas demand greater attention; why would this not be so for great men? Yet all political philosophy is concerned not with giving what greatness is owed, but what is owed to the least of us. The modern obsession with equality has not only failed to serve it equitably, but has completely inversed it. Why is this important? What does this mean for society? Our ideas of justice, of social order, and so on are principles by which we organize our social and legal norms, and those norms influence the behavior of individuals to the outcomes they have. The concepts cannot be explored and engaged in without a due reverence for the actual effects they have on society, including most especially how they lend to that society’s resiliency or fragility. Yet the abysmal ignorance and disdain shown by political philosophers for the most basic precepts of economics, sociology, psychology, biology, and tradition are the rule rather than the exception (and even within these fields, the dominant political philosophy has a tendency to inform rather than be informed).
What is the just ordering of society? What is the summun bonum of civilization? What is the good of the individual, within this context? These are questions we cannot explore without disregarding what we have been told we are supposed to be concerned about; we must disregard the poor, the weak, the feeble-minded. These are, after all, not the entirety of society, and it would be a disaster were they to become so. Would it be wrong to implement social forms which not only mitigate the evils associated with these groups, but would serve to prevent them from harming the overall fitness of society? If it were, must we allow the least among us to hold back the greatest, to ultimately veto the haphazard project of civilization and prevent progress, or worse?
What if a society of philosopher-kings were more than a silly fantasy, but a dangerous delusion? When one surveys the touted ideals and ostensible benefits of public education, the notion of a democracy dependent upon a society of individuals versed in liberal education repeatedly comes to the fore. There is this idea that everyone ought to be versed not only in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but should also be able to adroitly engage with literature, politics, art, history, myth, religion, and the other hallmarks of a cultivated intellectual life. Why? It certainly isn’t because it’s been demonstrated that this is in any way possible, for the clear record of public education is that such a standard is impossible to attain. The backpedaling to “But oh if only it were better!..” is no helpful reply, as that has already been the guiding philosophy of socialization in the American West since the beginning of the 20th century. Perhaps it is time to shrug our shoulders and admit that the success of reality TV and junk food is a cultural deficit indicative of a biological deficit. We are willing to entertain the notion that some people just aren’t capable of quantum physics or high level mathematics, but such a notion suggests that many people also aren’t capable of the basics of the social sciences which would lend credence to the idea of a well-functioning democracy hand-in-hand with a universal education. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people are not cut out to be philosopher-kings, and extending them a level of privilege and responsibility apt to that status will destroy not only them, but all that civilization has accomplished up to this point in time.
The task of ordering society rightly cannot be accomplished without putting political philosophy back together. To do that, we shall have to begin at first principles in order to get at the notion of how anything is rightly ordered per se, so as to apply these general principles to the specific form which is society. So we shall suspend the question of society temporarily in order to explore the notion of order per se.